Friday, November 4, 2016

Innocent blood cries out!

“They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.” Psalm 106:38

Matthew Henry: “Our case is awful when the outward church is considered. When nations professing Christianity, are so guilty as we are, no wonder if the Lord brings them low for their sins. Unless there is general and deep repentance, there can be no prospect but of increasing calamities. The psalm concludes with prayer for completing the deliverance of God's people, and praise for the beginning and progress of it. May all the people of the earth, ere long, add their Amen.” 

For a person who desires to be the Chief Executive of our nation and at the same time declares, “An unborn person has no rights” is nothing less than reprehensible.  No greater violence can be imagined then the ripping of a living conscious innocent human being from the supposed safety and security of his or her mother’s womb.  When I contemplate such a heinous atrocity, the only way I can describe the feeling is one of sheer anguish.  

John Calvin writes: “For the fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.”

I have no doubt that at the moment of conception, that my children, although lovingly nourished and protected by the body of their Mom, possessed a body of their own. Every fiber of her being desired to protect that virtuous body being formed within her own - and could not conceive of doing violence to that precious child.  The prophet speaks, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you;...” Jeremiah 1:5 

From a letter published within the last few days by a coalition of Black Pastors concerning the upcoming presidential election: “Particularly relevant is the innocence of the unborn child. The Bible places an extremely high value on human life and particularly on the lives of the innocent who are under the special protection of God. Those who take the life of the innocent violate a key biblical principle as well as a fundamental principle of natural justice.”

Can any nation - even this nation - who may by a majority vote give acquiescence to this dreadful crime, escape the fate of ancient Judah who were carried away into captivity because the walls of Jerusalem were filled with the shedding of innocent blood?

For innocent blood cries out to the Lord for vengeance. “The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.” 

I will lay it waste;
            It will not be pruned or hoed,
            But briars and thorns will come up.
            I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”

      For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel
            And the men of Judah His delightful plant.
            Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
            For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
Isaiah 5:6-7 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Can that which is lost find itself?

"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10

How often we glibly remark something such as this, “He found God.” The last time I checked God wasn’t lost. “no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:11 

Must it be said that even while we were not looking for Him He found us? “For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God.” Psalm 86:10  From my friends in the African-American Church I often hear this declaration: “He is God all by Himself!”

The prophet announces this all-consuming passion of the Father for His chosen ones. "As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.”  Ezekiel 34:12

What role does the lost coin have in being returned to the purse? It must be sought by the One longing for its return, fetched from its forlorn place of estrangement and deposited securely in the pouch which is so near His bosom.  

Paul, who was not only not looking for the Savior, but was violently opposing Him {“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”} later writes. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” Colossians 1:13 The commentator Charles Ellicott expounds: “Delivered” is “rescued,” properly applied to dragging [italics added] a person out of battle or the jaws of danger.”

This deliverance is with, by and through the sole prerogative of God alone in the Son of His love. He is able to deliver those who have no power to deliver themselves.  “For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6  Who determines the time but the Father in Christ our Lord alone? 

“In Him we were also chosen as God's own, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything by the counsel of His will,...” Ephesians 1:11 

For another metaphor:

Is it possible to birth yourself? Or even cooperate in the process? It does not depend on the will of the child - nor even that of the mother. There is something - or in the spiritual Someone - that transcends all of human frailty. Concerning the children of God: “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13 “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth,...” James 1:18 

And we might add - once the process is initiated, can it be aborted?  “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

In this truth lies our confidence and our supreme motivation to love and good deeds. “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for he who promised is faithful. Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works,...” Hebrews 10:23-24 

And from a modern hymn:

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.”

Solus Christus - In Christ Alone 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Love Is A Choice - Really?

“Love is a choice.” This is a common evangelical mantra.  When we hear it spoken we all nod our heads in benign acquiescence. Yet, we would just as knowingly assert that God is love and the ability to love emanates solely from Him.

I had been musing on this seeming inconsistency when I just heard these words on the radio.

“Spirit of God, who dwells within my heart, 
wean it from sin, through all its pulses move. 
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as you are, 
and make me love you as I ought to love.”

The hymnist equates the love for God with the coming of the Spirit of God. His desperate, but eternally effectual plea is, “make me love you as I ought to love.” This plea is effectual for it is totally congruent with the pantheon of covenantal love. 

The apostle who’s only response to the divine unction was, “Who are you Lord?” writes “...God's love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5 He would also maintain, “For who is able to resist his will?" Romans 9:19

He is the one who suddenly found himself embraced in the strong cords of divine love on that road to Damascus. A love so sure that he was held forever secure in its unyielding grasp.  “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1 

The love of God - even the love for God - is a gift, not a reward. We can only give to God what He has given us to give to Him. There is no other acceptable offering. 

If love be a matter of man’s fickle choice then the worth of the object must take its central place. It is only the love that proceeds from God that is truly capable of loving without merit being its raison d’etre

Our hymnist continues...

Teach me to love you as your angels love, 
one holy passion filling all my frame: 
the fullness of the heaven-descended Dove; 
my heart an altar, and your love the flame. 

This psalmody is wholly congruent with the testimony of scripture. ‘Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."’ Galatians 4:6 ‘We are His children, not by the exercise of our will, but by the will of God.  “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”’ John 1:13 Notice that we are His sons by the exercise of His will and the subsequent result is the coming of the Eternal Spirit - not before. 

Would there be an inherent ability to love - then we might possibly be able to will ourselves to love, i.e. make a choice.  If the futility of such transcends our abilities, our gaze and our petition must intrinsically be toward the One of whom is its beginning and its fulfillment. Thus the exhortations to love which are a aplenty in the Word of God.

Paul also writes: “For the love of Christ constraineth us;...” 2 Corinthians 5:14 Sometimes I just love the old language. This one predates the King James, for it is from the Geneva Bible - the Bible of the Reformers. Their note on this verse is “Wholly possesses us.”  It is they - who in their day and to whom we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude - delivered the church from slavish legalistic fealty into the glorious liberty of the children of God. More recent translations put it this way: “For Christ's love compels us...”  I remembering reading a commentator once who said it like this: “controls like a fever.”  When one is in the grip of an intense fever, he is under the control of something that is decidedly outside of his self-will.

This effectually drives the final nail into the coffin of vain boasting. And the believer is thus made the beneficiary of a hope that does not disappoint. “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:29 GSB 

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:10-11 NIV 

Our love for God - and our subsequent love for one another - has its genesis in God Himself. Thus it is this ability - when all other giftings and attributes pass away - which will remain.

Turning to another hymnist - Charles Wesley:

God only knows the love of God!
O that it more were shed abroad
in this poor longing heart!

“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

“I Chose You!”

Recently I was receiving encouragement as I read a post from a Christian acquaintance when my eyes fell upon this words:  “If you will allow Him..”  Astounded I queried, “Allow Him!?”  Who could possibly be addressed here? Certainly not the One who is “upholding all things by the power of His word,...”  

And then it got worse: “if you will just give Him a chance....” Once again, “A chance!?” Can the Sovereign purpose of our Eternal God be reduced to chance? Weymouth translates Romans 8:28: “Now we know that for those who love God all things are working together for good--for those, I mean, whom with deliberate purpose He has called.”  It is impossible for deliberate purpose and chance to coexist. Or can chance engender purpose? May it never be! The purposed of God are born not according to the will of the flesh, but according to the mandate of God. “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” James 3:11 

denial of the power

Yet these statements are no mere anomaly.  Modern evangelicalism is rife with such words as these.  My concern is that we are - whether inadvertently or with intentionality - holding onto a form of godliness rather than being gripped by immutable purpose. The inevitable consequence being the denial of the “power thereof.” The result being chronic and systemic ineffectualness. 

Can such a gospel - if it could even be called so - have any power unto perseverance and fidelity? Christ addresses this issue authoritatively:  "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” John 15:16  Prevarication must yield each and every time to absolute verity. 

“These words plainly teach us that our salvation comes only from the favour and gracious goodness of the everlasting God towards us, and of nothing that we do or can deserve.” Geneva Bible - Notes

intercessory confidence

Herein is our intercessory confidence - by this means and this means alone can we approach the Throne of Eternal Providence: “I chose you!” May this truth grasp us to the core of our being and cause us to soar from the doldrums of finite conception and enter into the courts of eternal intent.  For He has caused us to be accepted in the Son of His Love (Ephesians 1:6) - and at the consummation we will be presented to the Lamb by our Faithful Father as the reward for His suffering. 

Volition is in the hands of the Progenitor - and in He alone. “who works all things after the counsel of His will,” Ephesians 1:11 Herein is rooted our confidence and herein we receive the nourishment that yields lasting fruitfulness. And thus all to the praise of His Glory! “Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.” Psalm 72:19 

The “Apostle of the Heart Set Free” writes: “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” Ephesians 3:11-12 

eternal abundance

There is only one type of soil that is capable of grasping and nourishing the precious seed of eternal abundance - it is that which has been plowed, tilled and furrowed by the Great Husbandman.  "Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." Mark 4:8 Lest we succumb to the allure of deism or the “the man upstairs” phantasm it is also He who causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7).

Turning once again to our Savior’s words to His disciples - not to them alone - but also to those that will believe according to their word (John 17:20): "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go...”

So we go!

Solus Christus - By Christ Alone